The Last of August: Charlotte Holmes, Book 2

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
The Last of August: Charlotte Holmes, Book 2 Book Poster Image
Art heists, tortured romance in Holmes-Watson teen tale.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational value

There's the occasional shout-out to the Sherlock Holmes stories, but more interesting is the wealth of local culture and scenery as Charlotte and Jamie travel from England to Berlin to Prague on their quest. Much of the plot has to do with the international art world, specifically with how easy it is to pass off forgeries and frauds as the real deal. But along the way there's some detail about different artists, periods, and styles. Also occasional bits of Latin as Charlotte shows off her classical education.

Positive messages

Friendship -- and its rewards and dangers -- is a strong theme, whether it's Jamie and Charlotte struggling with their issues or the ability to call on pals with infinite resources to get things done. Courage, brains, and risk-taking are also important, even though, like the relationships, the result isn't always great.

Positive role models & representations

Their strong bond means a lot to Jamie and Charlotte, whether it's their destiny or the family curse. But it plunges Jamie into worlds he's not always prepared to handle, from the brilliant, weird Holmeses to a wild art scene in Berlin. In the process, he finds himself doing things -- such as adopting a fake identity and romancing a French art student to infiltrate a circle of forgers -- that he normally wouldn't and gets constant warnings from others about the dangers of being involved with Holmeses. Meanwhile, driven, conflicted, emotionally damaged Charlotte has her own agenda -- and struggles with how Jamie fits into it all.


Relatively regular kid Jamie is out of his depth in the deadly, dysfunctional world of the Holmeses and Moriartys. Murder's all in a day's work for several adult characters, and the teens are, at various times, kidnapped, imprisoned, drugged, and beaten. One adult character is being poisoned by another; another has disappeared, and another is shot to death.


Strong romantic undercurrent to the Charlotte-Jamie BFF relationship, hugely complicated by the traumatic events in Book 1, especially Charlotte's experience as a rape survivor. Jamie spends much of the book longing to kiss her. Frequent references to other characters' sex lives -- gay and straight, happy and troubled -- but little descriptive detail. When two characters spend a long-awaited night together, one of them reports, "I suppose I could recite the literal progression of events, but I find I have some small reserves of modesty. We didn't have protection; we didn't have sex. We did other things." Charlotte, in disguise, flirtatiously lures a thuggish character into a closet, only to knock him unconscious when he puts a hand up her dress.


Multiple "f--k," "s--t," occasional "asshole," "dickweed."


Occasional references to real-life brands, such as iPhones, for scene setting.

Drinking, drugs & smoking

Teen and adult characters drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes. The story takes them through some druggy art scenes, and there are references to Charlotte's heavy drug use in the past, but while Jamie's always worried about her relapsing, she's more involved with other matters here and there's no clear evidence that she's using.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Last of August, Brittany Cavallaro's follow-up to A Study in Charlotte, plunges teen characters Charlotte Holmes (descendant of Sherlock) and Jamie Watson (descendant of Doctor) into a dark world of murder, technology, international intrigue, and art forgery, as well as the multigenerational blood feud between the Holmeses and the Moriartys. It's all, supposedly, in aid of finding Charlotte's favorite uncle, who's suddenly disappeared, but there's always good reason to suspect deceit and subterfuge on many fronts. The latest of their families to have a life-changing if tortured connection, the two 16-year-olds have a strong bond that they're constantly questioning as events unfold and they try to do the right thing -- according to their own reckoning. Murder's all in a day's work for several adult characters, and the teens are, at various times, kidnapped, imprisoned, drugged, and beaten. One adult character is being poisoned by another; another has disappeared; and another is shot to death. There's a lot of romantic tension and snarky banter about people's sex lives, gay and straight, but no explicit detail. Expect some swearing (including "f--k" and "s--t"). But, as the story wends its way to a shocking conclusion that sets up the trilogy's final volume, dark deeds and dark forces are, overwhelmingly, everywhere.

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What's the story?

THE END OF AUGUST finds 16-year-old Jamie Watson spending a thrilling but uneasy Christmas holiday, after surviving the events of Book 1. It starts at the Sussex home of Charlotte Holmes' brilliant, dysfunctional family, but the teens are soon dashing off to sleazy quarters, dens of espionage, and dubious art scenes in Berlin and Prague. Jamie (who narrates most of the story) and Charlotte struggle with their intense, complicated relationship. Meanwhile, Charlotte's favorite uncle (and Jamie's dad's onetime best friend), who's been investigating art forgery, suddenly disappears, and she's convinced the Moriartys are, once again, to blame. Travel, intrigue, mayhem, deceit, and disguise soon follow -- complicated by the reappearance of August Moriarty, Charlotte's onetime tutor, whose life took a disastrous turn after she developed a crush on him.

Is it any good?

Brittany Cavallaro's second entry in the Charlotte Holmes trilogy is a dark, complicated story that keeps the pages turning right up to the shocking conclusion. Dysfunctional families, blood feuds, art forgery, murder -- these are only a few of the challenges facing 16-year-old Jamie Watson and Charlotte Holmes as they sort out their strong bond and loads of baggage. As Jamie navigates a world in which he's fascinated, thrilled, and completely out of his depth, and Charlotte follows an internal compass known only to her, there's plenty of angst about their relationship, lots of romantic tension, and deadly situations a-go-go.

There are also great travel vignettes describing the local scenes, architecture, and culture in Berlin and Prague. Some comical interludes involving elaborate disguises, art auctions, and school friends lighten the mood.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how The End of August is similar to a Sherlock Holmes story.  Why do you think people keep making up new Sherlock Holmes stories? What's the continuing appeal?

  • Do you think it's a good idea to make up new stories about someone else's characters (the way the entire fan-fiction world does)? Or is it better to start from scratch? What do you gain by working with established characters?

  • Does The End of August  make you want to check out Berlin and Prague? Does the story's explanation of recent history in those places make them more interesting?

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